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How to Become a Home Care Helper

Research the requirements to become a home care helper. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a home care helper. View article »

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  • 0:00 Home Care Helper Career Info
  • 1:10 Complete Training
  • 2:02 Pass Competency Evaluation
  • 2:21 Get Certified
  • 2:52 Seek Opportunities for…

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Video Transcript

Home Care Helper Career Info

Training Required High school diploma; formal training required in some states
Licensure and Certification Voluntary certification preferred by employers; aides who are employed through agencies being reimbursed by Medicaid or Medicare must pass a competency test or become state certified
Experience Experience in health care helpful
Key Skills Active listening, speaking, critical thinking, and writing skills; service orientation; monitoring, active learning, and instructing abilities; familiarity with database reporting, Internet browser, and medical software
Salary $21,920 (2015 median for home health aides)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online.

Home care helpers, or home health aides, help elderly, ill and mentally or physically disabled individuals with daily activities. They also may provide basic medical services in patients' homes, such as checking blood pressure or administering medications according to schedules. Aides may work with a single patient or visit several in a day. Working as a home health aide involves some lifting, such as helping patients in and out of bed. The job can also be emotionally demanding, since patients may be very ill or suffering from cognitive impairments that negatively affect their behavior.

In addition to some training and experience, home health aides should have some key skills. These include active listening skills, critical thinking and writing skills, active learning and instructing abilities, an orientation to service and familiarity with database reporting software and medical software. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that home health aides earned a median annual salary of $21,920.

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Step 1: Complete Training

Training for home care helpers is conducted on the job by a supervisor, registered nurse or experienced aide. Outside of certified home health or hospice agencies, training requirements are regulated by each state. Medicare or Medicaid can pay for home care delivered in the U.S. and certify the agencies that provide home care to program participants. To work for a Medicare- or Medicaid-certified home care agency, home care helpers need training.

Areas covered during training include nutrition, how to prepare meals, safety measures, personal hygiene, safe lifting and transfer techniques for moving residents from a bed to a chair, activity and exercise, emergency response, basic housekeeping, bathing, giving medication, errands and the monitoring of vital signs.

Step 2: Pass Competency Evaluation

After learning the fundamentals through training, personal home care helpers may be asked to take a competency exam to make sure they can perform home care duties. Home care helpers who want to work for Medicare- or Medicaid-certified agencies must complete the evaluation or a state certification program.

Step 3: Get Certified

The National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) offers the home care aide National Certification Program to test for and document competency. The nationally recognized paraprofessional certification enters a home care aide into a national database, through which a home care agency can verify competency certification of prospective hires. In order to earn the certification, individuals need to complete 75 hours in training and pass a written exam.

Step 4: Seek Opportunities for Advancement

Unless a home care helper decides to pursue additional education, advancement within this field is restricted. A home care helper can, however, continue their education and become a licensed nurse to achieve a higher standing and assume more responsibilities.

In conclusion, aspiring home care helpers typically need to complete some type of supervised training, and some may be asked to complete additional competency exams to receive certain types of certification.

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